Last weekend, I had a chance to watch the Atlanta Braves take on the New York Mets. The game was an instant classic, Tom Glavine pitching against his former team and facing none other than his old pal and teammate, John Smoltz. Though the forecast called for 40 degree weather, I thought, it’s Smoltz, it’s Glavine, I’m there.
I was also stoked because, the night before, after Jimmy Rollins baited the cat declaring his Phillies “The Team To Beat” in the NL East, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution jumped all over the quip and quickly slapped an ironic headline on Thursday’s night game recap, where the Braves finalized a sweep of the new-found-loser Phils. The Mets, being the new perennial superpower, showed the Bravos which team was really in control, handing down a 11-1 smackdown last Friday night. So there I was, oozing with glee that the gullible Atlanta press was giving their home team a new Pennant in April and the Mets had come into town to settle things straight.
Wrong. Well, almost wrong. Yea, the Braves won Saturday’s and Sunday’s games by relying on pitching and clutch hitting, but I still think the Mets are the team to beat. And if recent Baseball Tonight insight is to be believed, the Phillies and Mets will go down to the wire. The Braves? A mere afterthought.
The Braves series made me realize my aspirations for the Mets were a bit, uhm, inflated. But here comes Selena Roberts from the NYTimes, to trumpet [TimesSelect] the inferiority complex felt abound in Flushing compared to their neighbors across town in the Bronx.
Now that the Mets have everything, she argues, why not make the ultimate gong splash by signing Roger Clemens when/if he decides to pitch again this year:
Symbols of superiority and renewal are not misplaced in this case. The Mets have earned the confidence around what is, and the excitement over what will be, after having lived through an inferiority complex fed by forever playing Gilligan to Skipper in their race for respectability and relevance against the Yankees.
Now the Mets have it all, too: a network to call their own; record attendance figures, including one for yesterday’s rowdy 11-5 home-opening victory against the Phillies; a new stadium in the works; a Jeteresque pinup darling in David Wright; and a team assembled to win a World Series.
Even in punishing the Phillies, the Mets did it in vintage Yankee style, patiently waiting out the starting pitching before devouring the bullpen in the kind of muscle flexing you’d see in the gym mirrors at Bally’s.
Is a display of Yankee vanity a sign of the Mets’ ascent? Do they believe — in a Stuart Smalley, self-affirmation way — that they are good enough, smart enough and people like them?
If so, the Mets should feel worthy enough to ask, “Why not us?” should Roger Clemens hit the sales rack. If so, they should feel free to join the conversation around Clemens to challenge old assumptions about the pecking order in New York.
The Mets should feel worthy enough? C’mon Selena, if anything, the Braves’ series was proof that their rotation is not the best; that they have a collection of retirement-home candidates, and that they need an infusion of young pitching. Adding the 44-year-old Clemens to a rotation that already features 41-year-old glavine, 88-year-old (or thereabouts) Orlando “El Duque” Hernández – he could pitch ’till he’s 90 – and, if Pedro decides to give it another run, well, it’ll be another 35+ hurler with a bad back (or toe as it may be).
So why would it make sense to add Clemens? The hoopla? The Mets already caught everybody’s attention when they signed Martinez from the Red Sox a few years ago; even more so when they finally brought in Carlos Delgado.
And this year, they’ve won in style, scoring as many runs as advertised they would.
But if only to make a point about their market confidence, the Mets should make a pitch for the Rocket. Why not give him an alternative to think about? The Mets cannot offer Clemens the same full-circle of closure the Red Sox can; they cannot guarantee a hunting buddy on the roster like the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte; they cannot compete with a mansion full of antlers, sons with names beginning in K and awards Clemens could go home to in Houston.
But to a legendary pitcher noticeably fixated on his legacy, the Mets, in their current spirit of reinvention, can offer Clemens image reclamation and, more important, the best chance at another World Series ring.
Oh right, the Mets can’t offer Clemens anything more than the Yanks, the Sawks, or the ‘Stros; but they should sign him regardless. Last time I checked, a team with 83 wins won the World Series AFTER eliminating these very same Mets in the NLDS.
I was a psychology major for a semester, and if this doesn’t scream of inferiority complex, I don’t know what does. Thing is, I don’t think the Mets agree with Selena; nor should they.